It’s getting hotter and hotter, summer is coming (indeed you know nothing, John Snow!), so why not enjoy a day-trip to Wakayama City?
At first we had planned to camp there, but thanks to our laziness we decided to do a round trip on the same day by scooter. A wise decision? Let’s figure out!
Travelling in Japan can be a real pain, especially by moving using regular roads. Highways being extremely expensive (and not in a very good shape regarding the fees), we use them for trips that last at least 3 days, and if we are 4 people or more (to cover the rental fees as well). Otherwise, you’d better get on a train, as prices per head would be pretty close if not cheaper. BUT, and there comes the interesting part, if you are in couple (=2 people, right?), moving by train might not be the most advantageous way for moving around and traveling. Why is that? Because trains simply aren’t the best when you want to visit places. Not one place, no, but several (I wrote a “s”, check). Which implies that you need to move farther from the station. A lot farther sometimes, which is time consuming. And once it’s not close to town anymore, it can become quite the challenge as it is hardly accessible (plus the headache, cries, quarrels… you know what I’m talking about). Then you must find a bus or grab the first taxi you see, which means more moolahs to be spent. So here is “my” solution to that: get a motorbike (that can carry 2 people, that is – 50cc are one-manned vehicles in Japan). I’ll talk about driving/riding in another article anyway. But just know that thanks to that, I saved a lot of money, time, and saw places and scenery that I would’ve never seen otherwise.
Going to Wakayama took us approximately 2 hours. For about 60 kilometers, it’s a huge amount of time (average speed: 30km/h é_è). Truly. Welcome to Japan and its uncountable traffic lights. And we are lucky, as we can overtake any traffic jam. By car, I’d rather not imagine how long it would take. Goodness! So we left in the morning, headed South with a nice sun keeping us warm (a bit too much, man I’m all red!) until we finally reached Wakayama. The first thing I wanted to do was to go all around the castle and see if it was worth stopping by. It was indeed, as it is surrounded by a beautiful park. When I use the term “castle”, I mean the building and its walls (or ramparts), not the green space all around, which I’d say is a park. I couldn’t find any map of the park, so I kindly scanned the official one that I got on that day (all in Japanese, the real deal – click to enlarge it). The castle is, as usual, higher than the rest of its surroundings, and we were honestly not very interested in going inside as we had already visited the superb and authentic Matsumoto Castle, one of the oldest castles in Japan. But truth be told, it’s still a wonder to the eyes. The architecture, the shape, the neatness, the roofs, the bright white walls, the base made of big stones. It’s interesting to point that, for once, the stones had not been smoothly carved, but remain uneven, more like a pile. I’ve seen quite many Jap castles, and that’s the first time I saw that.
Because we wanted to see other things and not only that place, we didn’t go through the whole park, only the castle and a beautiful garden: the Momijidani Garden. Let’s first have a look at our path:
As you can see, we didn’t even walk half of the park, but I believe we saw the most beautiful part. We’ll see the rest another day (yeah, right…).
The Momijidani Garden
A very beautiful small garden with trees, moss, baby waterfalls, small bridges, and a pond linked to the moat (=the channel dug around the castle) inhabited by carps and turtles. On the map, it’s located right above the castle. If you stay there long enough, it might bring you calm, serenity and, why not, inner peace (good luck with that). There is a very cute “floating” pavilion that actually doesn’t float at all (that would be funny, actually :3 ), but is a little above the water level. At that time its doors were closed, but you can find some photos on the internet with its doors opened. And obviously, no touchy!
Despite being pretty small, I really enjoyed being inside that mini wood. Right outside the park, the bridge – Ohashi Roka – is quite the wonder. Unsurprisingly, its architecture is neat and in perfect condition. It is free to access, the only “constraint” is that you are asked to take off your shoes to cross the bridge. The interesting part about that masterpiece is that it’s not just planks put one after another. There are walls, shutters, and a roof. Anyone crossing the bridge cannot (or is not supposed to) be seen, but can outside. The annoying thing is the floor that is not flat but, and I guess there must be a logical reason for that, more like notched. Indeed, instead of placing the planks in a straight and flat way, they were inclined. Those planks not being large, it wasn’t easy to place my feet, and it was a bit painful. I’ve got some theories about the why, but who cares. Just enjoy the photographs.
Lunch tiiiiiime! Yummy and healthy ^-^
Then we headed South of the city. On the following map, you can see Wakayama Castle at the top, and the bay at the bottom. I zoomed in to show you there is a shrine called Shiogama (and another one Tamatsushima), located right next to a mini mountain, a mount, of which I forgot the name. We climbed it up and got a very nice view of the bay (in green) and part of the city.
On the map, right under “Shiogama Shrine”, you can see a bridge. There are actually two. A “recent” one for motorized vehicles, and a small old one named Furobashi. You can enjoy the differences between 1900 and 2015. The bridge hasn’t changed at all:
And finally the beach of Wakura Bay. Such a clear water, not the Caribbeans, but close! Being the beginning of May (still too cool), we didn’t get in it, only walked along bare feet. But what a pleasure!
We ended our day by going to the West coast in order to admire some cliffs and isles, recklessly communicating with the Ocean.
Useful links (in English):